Thirty-nine American citizens and lawful permanent residents that were left behind in Afghanistan by the Biden administration were evacuated Friday and are headed to the Big Apple.
The evacuees, which include more than a dozen kids, the youngest of whom is an 11-month-old American citizen, were rescued from the Taliban-controlled locale by Project Dynamo, a volunteer, civilian group led by former Military members and current Military Reserves soldiers, the organization said in a news release.
“This is the first known major airlift rescue with American boots on the ground since the U.S. government abandoned the country of Afghanistan in August,” James Judge, a spokesman for the organization, said in a statement.
“Despite their difficulties, we are doing this because it is the right thing to do when another human is in need and because our fellow Americans should never be left behind.”
Two members of Project Dynamo, Bryan Stern and Abdul Wasit, flew into Afghanistan from an undisclosed country in the region earlier this week and with help from a small team of volunteers, brought the evacuees to a safe house near Kabul.
Once there, there, they were given COVID-19 vaccines and other necessary vaccinations along with PCR tests, the group said.
The evacuees were then loaded up in vehicles and escorted to Kabul International Airport where they boarded two flights chartered by Berry Aviation around 4 p.m. local time.
The evacuees have all passed a preliminary inspection by the State Department but will need to clear customs after they arrive at JFK Airport Saturday morning, the group said. The State Department did not return a request for comment and couldn’t confirm if they conducted clearance checks.
Stern, a co-founder of Project Dynamo, said this is the first evacuation that’s been pulled off without the use of a refugee camp since the Taliban took control of the country following President Biden’s sloppy, and widely panned, withdrawal.
“No American or Permanent Resident should be forced to stay in a refugee camp while attempting to return to their own families, homes and communities in the United States,” Stern said in a statement.
The group claims to have rescued more than 2,000 Americans and lawful permanent residents from Afghanistan since Kabul fell “safely and legally” but the Department of Defense and the White House couldn’t confirm if they were aware of the group and didn’t return requests for comment.
Following the military’s haphazard withdrawal from Afghanistan, President Joe Biden claimed there were just 100 to 200 American citizens left behind in the country but earlier this month, the State Department showed that number was much larger.
Since Aug. 31, the agency said 479 citizens and 450 lawful permanent residents have managed to get out with their assistance and that they’re “in touch with fewer than a dozen U.S. citizens” who want to leave and have the needed travel documents to do so.
As the US military prepared to leave Afghanistan in August, it took just 11 days for the Taliban to regain control of the country following 20 years of occupation — a feat Biden said was “highly unlikely”.
Since then, the locale has been plunged into chaos. Afghans have reported that they are starving and unable to purchase food while some have been forced to sell their children so they can support the rest of their family.
Recently, an Afghan volleyball player on the girls’ national team was beheaded by the Taliban after she spoke out about the risks female athletes face in the country. In October, photos emerged that showed the Taliban was again conducting public hangings — a shocking display reminiscent of the Islamic militant group’s brutal regime of decades past.
Additional reporting by Steven Nelson